Russian Proton Rocket Fails For Third Time

The Russian Proton heavy-life rocket has failed for the third time in 16 months to successfully place the Gazprom Space Systems satellite in a proper orbit.

The failed launch caused Gazprom’s Yamal 402 telecommunications satellite to enter into a too-low orbit, according to launch-service provider International Launch Services, reports NBC News.

The failed launch will also likely raise questions about whether Proton Breeze-M’s manufacturing team has failed to disclose any workmanship quality issues that were supposed to be addressed during inquiries into the previous failures.

The December 9 Russian rocket failure also poses problems for Samtex, a Mexican satellite operator whose Samtex 8 satellite recently arrived at the Beikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Samtex 8 is scheduled for a December 28 launch by the same rocket.

In light of the Russian Proton rocket’s failure, however, the December launch date now appears out of reach. The Samtex 8 is expected to replace the company’s current Samtex 5 satellite, which will likely run out of fuel in May.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek notes that the failure will also lead so some embarrassment for the satellite’s manufacturer, which jumped the gun and announced a successful launch to the world — only to have the opposite come true. Thales Alenia Space, the satellite’s manufacturer, sent out a brief press release shortly after blastoff, saying the Yamal 402 satellite was “successfully launched.”

International Launch Services Inc. announced the Russian Proton rocket’s failure to successfully launch the satellite about five hours later. The rocket’s upper-stage engine shut off prematurely, causing the five-ton satellite to end up in a too-low orbit. The failure highlights the country’s problems with its fleet of rockets, which stretches back to 2010.

There have been at least six failed launches suffered by Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos. The failures included the destruction of several navigation and communication satellites. The latest Russian Proton rocket failure begs the question on whether the space agency is able to successfully send people, satellites, and cargo into space.